Friday, 18 November 2011

Where Do I Market My Novel Once Self Published?

You’ve completed your novel, published it on Kindle, Smashwords and Createspace. Now what do you do? If the indie book sales don’t come rolling in, it is time to do some book marketing. Of course, there is FaceBook and Twitter on which to plug your book, but which websites specialize in book marketing?

Websites to Promote your Book

Linkedin is a website dedicated to professionals who wish to exchange opportunities and ideas and therefore is ideal for authors wishing to get noticed. Linkedin can be used as a network platform for self published authors to connect with others in the industry such as literary agents and publishers.

Goodreads is a huge online bookclub where avid readers can impart what titles they have enjoyed and give recommendations. The Goodreads Author Programme helps authors reach their target audience with your own webpage. You can advertise your book, post a bio, post excerpts from your book and even a quiz about your book. It is recommended that your book is already on Amazon or Barnes & Noble before applying for the author programme.

Shelfali is a part of Amazon. Go to the Shelfali homepage and sign in with your existing Amazon account. Search for your book and you can make changes and additions, such as a rundown of the characters of your book, a logline, the location of your book, excerpts from your book and other interesting things about your book. Shortly, you will find the logline and character list part of your book appear on the page where your book is located.

Sell Your Book Through the Best Book Sites

Author’s Den is a site that brings writers and readers together. Via this site, authors may link to their articles, blogs and other author links. An author page provides a platform for an author bio, details of publications, books and a place for other readers to review.

Librarything, essentially is the largest bookclub in the world. You can capture your book from Amazon or libraries worldwide and add it to your own library for cataloging and adding tags. Create an author profile to help you connect with readers and raise your profile. A Zeitgeist page shows fun statistics about the site in general such as the top reviewers and the most prolific reviewers.

Networks for Authors

The Book Marketing Network as its name suggests is a networking site for authors, epublishers and publishers. Once creating an account you can upload an author bio, picture, details of your books via a My Page and create links to your blog. A forum enables authors to network and exchange tips with other writers. Ask a question through booksellers, book designer or publicist.

Book Blogs Ning is a site for book lovers and writers but is really to let writers with blogs know about you and your blog. Plug your book through a My Page and blog about your book. Start a discussion about your book (but never plug your book in an unrelated discussion). You can post book giveaways and deals through this site.

Breakthrough Bookstore is a site dedicated to the reader looking for that special book by an unknown or undiscovered author. The site is powered by Amazon, by clicking through to find Amazon’s highest-rated indie books. There is an editor’s choice and a shop by category in the site.

Other Sites for Promoting your Book

Further platforms for authors (these I haven’t checked out) might be worth investigation are, Bookwhirl, Indieauthorsunite, Book Daily, Bookhitch and Writetobreathe. Some of these sites are still under development.

Guide to Promoting your Book on the Web

The cardinal rule when plugging your book is never to spam. This will make your appear unprofessional. I myself never plug my books on Amazon or hijack someone else’s discussion with an unsolicited sales pitch. Promoting your book effectively means putting placing it in contextual sites. This means making it discoverable by someone searching for a book like yours. By this means, it will get read, reviewed and even recommended.

Articles on Book Publishing

How to write a book synopsis
Dealing with rejections from publishers

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Platforms for Screenwriters to Get Discovered

You do not have to wait for the next screenwriting contest deadline or response from a film agent to get your screenplay discovered. You can also upload your screenplay onto various online platforms where they are viewable 24/7 for people in the movie industry looking for new screenwriting talent.

Getting Your Screenplay Read

Screenwriting platforms are basically websites that host your screenplay for public view. On registration, you will have access to screenwriting forums and discussions with other screenwriters, get reviewed by those like yourself and/or those in the movie industry. You will also get exposure to those looking for screenwriting talent. Most screenwriting platforms are free, but some charge for registration and/or hosting on the site. Look out for prizes and opportunities to improve your craft of screenwriting.

Should I Upload My Screenplay for Public View?

Of course it is always advisable to register your work with the WGA or similar before uploading. Unless the work is copied verbatim or parts of it lifted, the screenwriter will find it hard to prove that someone else has made some basic alterations to your screenplay and given it a different title. The premise for a story or an idea cannot be copyrighted. However, hiding the screenplay away in fear of this happening is also not ideal. Some of the following screenwriting platforms offer security against this happening and all recommend protecting your copyright as much as possible.


More than 120 films have been produced from writers who are a member of Inktip. Members include writers, producers and film agents. A logline and synopsis (not the screenplay itself) can be uploaded for free. The site is also accessible to almost 3000 industry professionals making the site ideal for the right exposure. Only industry professionals (not other writers) have access to reading your screenplay which makes it more secure against plagiarism. The screenplay must also be fully copyrighted with the Writer’s Guild of America or similar, prior to upload. Just register and this screenwriting platform could help you sell your script. Registration is free, but including your script onto InkTip’s searchable index costs $60 per 6 months. You must sign and return a release form to become a member. Read carefully before uploading.


Created by Ben Cahan, the creator of Final Draft screenwriting software, this screenwriter’s platform provides exposure for full length features, hour-long dramas, shorts and snippets. A logline voting system enables the logline for your screenplay to get praise or a makeover from Script Pipeline as well as a ‘screenwriter’s lounge’ for advice and to swap ideas. A virtual TalentDollar currency enables you to ‘earn’ by reviewing other screenplays in order to ‘buy’ a review for yours from someone else. Feedbacks for scripts are broken down into concept, story, character, structure, dialogue, writing and overall. A Hall of Fame offers awards for the best screenplays and further exposure and opportunities from Scriptapalooza.

Amazon Studios

A screenwriter’s platform set up by Amazon and Warner Brothers, this site offers screenwriters the chance to be read, reviewed and work in collaboration with other writers for monthly prizes and a chance to get produced. The first 30 pages of your screenplay are guaranteed a read by an industry professional on upload. Other writers and film producers may create a film trailers, shorts and dialogue tracks from your screenplay. You must read the developmental agreement carefully, as upload automatically options your screenplay for 18 months. A clause prohibits uploading your screenplay elsewhere during this period, so uploading onto Talentville, for example after uploading onto Amazon Studios would conflict with the developmental agreement.


A platform for screenwriters, authors, film makers and film lovers to share, network and learn from others. A veteran site starting in 2002, film lovers and industry specialists may review screenplays regarding concept, character, dialogue, story, structure and overall. Short stories and short movies can also be found here. Like Talentville mentioned above, you earn review credits by reviewing others. To earn credits, you must request an assignment and then review. If your screenplay becomes featured by TriggerStreet, TriggerStreet have first option to buy your screenplay for a period of no less than 90 days. A ‘Hall of Justice’ is set up by seasoned users to regulate the site.

Websites for Screenplays

The screenwriter does not have to wait for replies from film agents or the next contest deadline. Websites holding databases for screenplays viewable at any time by industry professionals as well as film lovers to review, collaborate, swap ideas, and perhaps even get discovered. Of course, putting your screenplay on public view always poses the risk of plagiarism. Always register your screenplay with the WGA or similar beforehand.

Links to Other Articles on Screenwriting

Scriptwriting workshops
Format your screenplay for Kindle
Copyrighting your screenplay
Great themes for your screenplay
Create a strange character

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Which Screenwriting Competition?

Entering scriptwriting contests is an exciting activity, but care must be taken the competition is fair. I always garner reviews from screenwriting forums. The prize fund must correlate with the entry fee, for example, a high entry fee for a small prize fund should be questioned (unless further opportunities are offered). Look out for hidden costs and beware of competitions with spam or have pop-up ads. Competitions that enable the screenwriter to retain the rights are to be preferred.

The Best Screenwriting Contests

The following links provide information on annual screenplay contests, with good cash prizes and/or good prospects on offer. The entry fees are pretty much the same, around $50 or so. Always read the competitions rules carefully.

The Page International Screenwriting Awards

Started by a group of producers, writers and agents from Hollywood, winners of this annual competition resulted in movie productions and options from established film makers such as Fox Films and Zero Gravity Productions. You need to assign your entry into a film genre such as comedy, drama, thriller or science fiction. Shorts as well as TV pilots can also enter. Prizes for each category will be given from a total prize fund of $50,000. You may submit your entry online. Earlier submissions are cheaper than late ones (between $40 and $70). For an additional fee, you will get a script feedback.

Zoetrope Contest

A motion picture company belonging to Francis Ford Coppola, the American Zoetrope Screenwriting Contest could result in consideration by big names such Samuel Goldwyn, Fox Searchlight or Sony Pictures. Held annually, the prize fund amounts to $5000 but could yield untold opportunities, not least the top 10 finalists to be considered by William Morris Endeavour, the Gersh Agency and others. Online entries are accepted. Entry fee between $35 and $50 depending on the tardiness of submission.

Final Draft Big Break

Final Draft Big Break is an annual global screenwriting competition that accepts online entries of feature length screenplays only. Fees vary between $40 and $65 depending upon how early you enter. Screenplays that have been optioned are not eligible. Prize money vary from $15,000 for the winner to $2000 for finalists.

Hollywood Screenplay Contest

An annual competition costing from $30 to $55 for late submitters. Winners and finalists have the opportunity to attend a gala event to meet and network with producers and film makers. Prize fund amounts to $5000 plus.

Amazon Studios

A partnership set up between Amazon and Warner Brothers. Upload your screenplay and the first 30 pages are guaranteed to be read by the powers that be. The screenplay is also automatically entered into a monthly and an annual competition the prize fund of which collectively amounts to around $2 million. Your screenplay could also be produced. Read the development agreement carefully before joining.

Bluecat Screenplay Competition

An annual screenplay competition that offers $10,000 to the winner and $2000 to the finalists. Extra prizes can be found in the Cordelia prize, for the best US screenplay, and the Joplin award for the best non US screenplay. A live reading of the screenplay will be performed at the George Eastman Film Festival. The fee to enter the competition includes 2 script analyses per screenplay.

New York Screenplay Contest

An annual competition offering different genre categories, including thrillers, comedy and drama with prize fund amounting to $10,000. Entry fees depend upon the length of the script and the tardiness of submission but is between $25 to $65. For an extra $50, a judge feedback is given. Winning screenplays and finalists will also receive promotion to targeted press releases within the entertainment media.

Screenwriting Contests Tips

Before submitting your screenplay, read the competition rules carefully to ensure no rule breach, for instance, some competitions prohibit a screenplay that has been optioned elsewhere. Watch out for hidden costs too, as some competitions demand a registration fee as well as the entry fee itself. The best way to decide if a competition is worth entering is to check out feedback on screenwriting forums.

Screenwriting Advice

Writing dialogue for film
How to write a synopsis for a screenplay
Getting into paid screenwriting jobs
Character names for your screenplay
Is Amazon studios for me?

Beginners’ Guide to Self Publishing Your Novel on Createspace

Createspace, one of Amazon’s limbs in the self-publishing business is a free and convenient way to getting your novel published in print copy. Not to be confused with Kindle, which is Amazon’s ebook store, for reading novels on a reader, such as the Kindle. Createspace is free to self-published authors for its Print on Demand services (POD), which means the book is only printed when it is purchased.

Self-Publishing Your Novel for Free

Publishing on Createspace is a different experience to publishing on Kindle (or KDP Amazon – Kindle Direct Publishing). You will basically need 3 things: a typo-free, perfectly crafted novel, a synopsis (blurb or sales pitch for the novel) and a book cover.

Firstly the novel. Take care the desired font is used. Times New Roman, Aerial or Bookman Old Style are most often used. I favour font sized point 10 for my novels but 11 or 12 might be more suitable for children’s fiction. Take a look at other novels to see how they are formatted and copy a style you like regarding chapter headings, page numbers or graphics. I try to keep these elements simple.

Formatting your Novel

You will need to consider the dimensions of your book. Createspace has a range of sizes to choose from, 8x5in (which I used for my novels) to 8.5x11in. You can alter the size of your pages on Word by selecting ‘page layout’ on the Word toolbar and then selecting ‘size’. By selecting ‘more page sizes,’ you can tailor the size of your novel to accord with any Amazon’s Createspace offer. Whatever margins you use, ensure they are ‘mirrored.’ (I allow 1in approx on the outer edges, top and bottom and a little wider for the inside or ‘gutter’ of the page). Note, that odd page numbers are always the facing page, and therefore chapter one will be placed on an odd page number, (say page 3 or 5). Set indentations for new paragraphs to 0.3.

Your Novel as a PDF File

Once the look of your novel is how you want, you need to save it as a PDF. To do this, open your word document, hover over the office graphic button on the upper left of your screen, click on ‘save as’ and then select PDF. You will then find 2 options, either minimum size (for online publishing such as on Kindle) or standard (for printing). Select the latter and click ‘publish.’ A separate PDF file will open. This is the file you will need to upload onto Createspace. Note: PDF is a read only document. If you notice a typo, you will have to delete the PDF file, correct the typo on the word document and save as a separate PDF.

Publishing on Createspace

Create an account with Createspace by following the online instructions. Next, you will need to input the title information (the title of your book) followed by the synopsis for your novel. Writing a synopsis for the novel can be found as a separate article on this blog. Next, the ISBN. You can have a free Createspace assigned ISBN or use one you have purchased from a separate agency. I will put the ISBN in the copyright page of my book and keep a separate copy of it for reference.

Uploading Your Book onto Createspace

Before uploading your PDF file onto Createspace, select the page colour, which is white, cream or a ‘colour’ option if you have colour illustrations within your book. Note, publishing in black and white is much cheaper than a colour book, so unless it is a children’s picture book, avoid using a one-off colour graphic, which will make the whole book much more costly to produce. For my novels, I use ‘cream’ rather than white, but it is up to you. Now you simply need to select ‘with bleed’ or ‘without.’ A bleed is required if illustrations or text run off to the edge of the page, and Amazon needs to trim off the edge. Most novels require no bleed, so select this button and then upload your PDF file onto Createspace. This will take a few moments.

Book Cover Design

You will obviously need a book cover design for your novel. This is a lengthy process which I have covered in a separate article. Briefly you have the choice of either designing your own from scratch, using one of Amazon’s templates and a myriad of copyright-free images from their database, or you can use one of their cover designers for $299. It is up to you.

Pricing Your Novel

Now you just need to “complete setup.” This involves pricing your novel and deciding on which channels to sell it on. A price checker can be used to help you decide how much to price your book as. All you need to do is input the size and page numbers. Your book will automatically be available on Amazon as well as your own CreateSpace Estore, which you can design yourself and provide links to. You also have the option of Standard Distribution, or Expanded Distribution Channel. (The old system involving Pro Plan has now been changed).

What is Expanded Distribution Channel?

It is up to you, but for a fee of $25 per book, you can upgrade to Expanded Distribution Channel (EDC). EDCopens distribution channels of your book onto other sales channels such as bookstores, libraries and overseas retailers. I like to see how my books perform on Kindle before committing to EDC, as you will also have to price your books a little higher to make royalties than if you remained with the standard channel.

Once you have completed all required fields, you can submit your book for review, which will take around three days or so, after which, the print copy of your book will be available on

At this point, I will order a copy of my book as a keepsake. Note however, that if you live outside the US, you will have to pay overseas postage costs which I have found can often exceed the production cost of the book itself, and which a lengthy wait is likely.

Free POD Publishing

Having said that, I think Createspace is the best POD (print on demand) option for the self-published author, as the book is created at no cost to you other than the purchase of your own book and the option of EDC. So long as you have taken special care over the novel itself, the formatting of your book and the cover design, the quality of the book compares with those of mainstream publishers.

Links to other articles on writing novels

Questionnaire for developing your characters
How to develop narrative style
How to format your novel for print on demand

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Why I Uploaded my Script onto Amazon Studios

There has been mixed reactions to Amazon Studios’ terms and conditions in their developmental agreement. Well, I have been doing a lot of cogitating and research before uploading my screenplays onto their site. Let’s look at the contentious issues that may deter other untested screenwriters from uploading their screenplays onto Amazon Studios and tackle them one by one.

1 Uploading onto Amazon Studios opens your screenplay up to getting messed up by other writers. (Other writer meaning those who have an Amazon Studios account like you, not Amazon Studios itself.) Well, the option ‘closed’ has been added to ‘with permission’ and ‘open’, meaning you keep total control over the drafts of your screenplay. Having no collaborators, means you keep all monies from prizes, option extensions or purchases for yourself and you retain complete control over your screenplay.

Of course, your screenplay will still be ‘messed with’ by other writers and/or producers within Amazon Studios if they decide to purchase the rights to your screenplay, but this applies to the film industry in general, not just Amazon Studios.

2 By uploading onto Amazon Studios opens your screenplay up to being ‘copied’ by another writer. One of the clauses in the developmental agreement prohibits you from taking a law suit against Amazon Studios if they work on another project that happens to have similar plotline or elements to your screenplay. Well, this could happen the moment any reader opens your screenplay. According to the Writers’ and Artist’s Yearbook, you cannot copyright an idea or a concept. Similarities and influences between movies can be seen throughout history. However, copying someone’s work verbatim is prohibited. The best thing to do is to register your work at the copyright office. The alternative is to allow your screenplay to languish in the drawer to collect dust. No risk of someone copying your idea then, is there?

3 If your screenplay is good enough, you will find representation and/or a better deal elsewhere without a need to upload onto Amazon Studios. Well, in my experience, few literary/film agents will even look at an unknown/untested writer. I have spent months writing letters/emails, printing and sending scripts to the largest agents in the UK and few will even respond. Recently, I sent ten polite query letters after a hiatus of giving up and had one response. They are either ‘too busy’, have ‘full books’ or have simply ‘lost your correspondence’. The waiting is the most difficult part. Some agents prohibit you from approaching another agent whilst they consider your work and yet expect you to wait months for a response. You’d have to live to a hundred to approach all agents and wait for their responses one after the other.

From my research, it seems working within the industry and being ‘in the know’ really does increase your chances of getting your screenplay read. The quality of the screenplay has little bearing within this point. The screenplay I had touted had received excellent feedback from BBCWritersroom having gone very far up their feedback system and was almost been taken on by PFD a few years back. Despite this, my efforts have given me nothing to show for. You could have a fantastic screenplay, yet will likely remain unread unless you have some connection within the industry or have the time, funding and resources to attend workshops/events/meet people in the business that likely take place miles from where you live. Not easy if you have a full-time job, family commitments, and if like me, you live in some backwater. Screenwriting talent and the power to get your script read, from my experience, are two very separate things.

4 You can’t sell your script elsewhere for 18 months once you upload due to the option agreement. Well, see point 3 above on this. From my experience, it is hard to even get a screenplay read by a producer/agent if you are an unknown. But on Amazon Studios, at least others can read it and give reviews; the first 30 pages of your screenplay are guaranteed to be read by someone who makes the decisions on whether to purchase. You are also automatically entered into monthly competitions on Amazon Studios which could win you thousands of dollars. Think of the time, expense and effort to enter just one screenwriting competition? I have checked them out, and each competition is on average $50 each to enter. Having your screenplay up on Amazon Studios enables you to sit back, relax and see what happens for free. And whilst waiting, why not use the time to do what writers really want to do: write?

I must add the point here that Amazon Studios allow you to enter screenwriting competitions so long as the rights to the screenplay are not sold away. You must read through the rules, as some screenplay competitions prohibit screenplays that have been (a) optioned elsewhere or (b) entered into other competitions. By uploading your screenplay onto Amazon Studios, you are automatically optioning your screenplay for 18 months and entering into their monthly competitions.

5 Amazon Studios has the right to extend the option period for a further 18 months in exchange for payment of $10,000 and there is nothing you can do about it. What if another producer was gagging to produce your screenplay for more? See point 3 above. The chance of anther producer wanting to buy your screenplay if you are an unknown is tiny. Look at it this way, you could upload your screenplay, forget it, and possibly get $10,000 payment for little effort in 18 months’ time, whereas otherwise, your screenplay could be sitting in the attic collecting dust or waiting to be read by a disinterested agent (again, see point 3). And surely, if Amazon Studios decide to purchase the option extension, that has to be a good sign. If Amazon Studios do not extend this option, you are free to tout your screenplay elsewhere. In some cases, Amazon will even release you from the option agreement early if you ask them to (so long as they have no plans to do anything with it.)

6 Amazon Studios has the right to sign on your behalf any documents you have not signed and returned within 5 days as a right of attorney. You will only be expected to sign documents outlined in their developmental agreement on their website which refers to documents like the option agreement or the purchase contract of your screenplay. Read carefully. If you don’t like anything within the developmental agreement, do not upload your screenplay.

7 Amazon Studios pay you a flat fee if they decide to purchase your screenplay. That’s all. Yes, you will be paid a flat fee of $200,000 purchase price for you screenplay. And you could get an additional $400,000 bonus if the film makes $60 million profit in the US box office. Oh, and you may possibly have received option fees and contest prize money as well. You could earn more if your screenplay has spinoffs or episodes. You could become more attractive to the screenwriting market if you write more screenplays, and other film producers/agents could be vying to buy your next screenplay.

If you have written a novel from the screenplay, think of the sales this could generate for your novel? The rights to your novel are still yours (if you are self-published as I am). In total, you could end up with at least half or a million dollars for uploading your screenplay. Rather unlikely otherwise.

8 Amazon Studios retains the right to produce my screenplay forever, even once the option period has expired. Well, they still have to pay you $200,000 to buy your screenplay to do so (plus you could get more if the film does well – see point 7 above). And that’s a good thing for your purse-strings, isn’t it?

Screenwriters who have broken into the industry may not see the benefits of Amazon Studios, and understandably so if they have found someone open-minded enough to read their screenplay in the first place. But from this lofty position, it is easy to attack Amazon Studios. From my experience, there really is a huge brick wall to getting your screenplay read…by anyone. And getting on really does depend upon where you live, who you know and the resources at your disposal. Talent comes into it very little, it seems.

Read article is Amazon Studios for Me?